Honourable Mentions Awards 2015- The Best of the Rest

We all like to organise stuff into nice, round numbers. Normally to a factor of 5 or 10. As such, while I’m very happy with the list of my top 10 games from 2015, I feel like there were are still some loose ends to tie up. Stuff that, while I didn’t think represented the absolute best that 2015 had to offer, still managed to shine in some meaningful way, and so deserve an honourable mention. Maybe they had a really great story but fumbled the gameplay department, or maybe they had an interesting mechanic that set them apart from the crowd. Perhaps they were a great example of a genre that I didn’t want to be over-represented in my main list. In any case, they’re all games that should be worth your time and well worthy of recognition.

THE REPACKAGED GEM AWARD- Journey HD (PS4)

I missed out on Journey the first time around due to issues with my PS3 and the internet setup at my old house. I’d heard rumblings of an HD remaster for the PS4 for a while, and checked with a hopeful google every couple of weeks for several months before I got my Journey HD release.

The wait was worth every second.

As advised, I played through the game in one sitting, and it became clear to me that the game’s title was apt in more ways than one; not only was my character journeying from point A to point B to point C, but so too were my emotions. As I guided my character on a pilgrimage through desert, ruins and mountain peaks towards the omnipresent beacon of light emanating from a split mountain peak, my emotional state was poked and prodded, giving rise to a full range of feelings, subtly manipulated by the game’s flow. Journey is a great example of superior design trumping graphical fidelity. Journey’s unique aesthetic nonetheless forms a distinct personality. It’s detailed, but not complex; it’s got a streamlined visual style that nevertheless feels rich. Crimson ribbons of flowing fabric pop against rolling dunes of golden sands and black rocky climes topped with crisp white snow. And the music, oh the music. Austin Wintory’s soundtrack works seamlessly in tandem with the game world to punctuate the emotional gravity of your pilgrimage, ranging from melancholy and haunting to curious and playful to joyously rousing. No part of the game illustrated this point better than the final section of the game, a visual, auditory and emotional tour-de-force that has lifted my heart and brought a stupid grim to my face better than almost any other piece of media has managed.

The only reason that the game didn’t make my game of the year list is because it’s a remaster of a game from 2012, and while the update to the visuals certainly crispen up the visuals, everything that makes the game what is is is a product of that year, not 2015.

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THE LENA HEADEY DIGITAL SNEER AWARD- Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series (PC, Mac, Android, PS4, PS3, XBO, X360)

If there’s a franchise that benefits from gameplay with a focus on measured decision-making, it’s  Game of Thrones (or A Song Of Ice And Fire, but that’s a pain to type out each time). A more cerebral, slow burning fantasy, it’s quickly established in the books and show that Westeros and Essos are no place for the weak of mind and will. To survive in this world, especially at the higher levels of society, characters must hone their silver tongues to become a weapon as useful as any deadly poison or hidden dagger. Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series places you in the boots of several members of struggling Northron family, the Forresters. War and age-old enemies may spell calamity for the once-proud family, and the sons and daughters of the house need valuable allies and clever plans, or else their legacy holds nothing but ash.

It’s fascinating and terrifying to guide the decisions of your characters as you progress through the game’s story, and you do get the genuine feeling that your words might spell victory or doom for you and those you care about. I’ve had jump scares from Until Dawn and existential, surreal dread from SOMA, but maybe the scariest experience in gaming for me this year was reading the words, “Cersei Lannister will remember that…” Chilling.

This is, however, a Game of Thrones game, and as fans of the series will attest, cruel twists of fate or unknown threats can cast best laid plans to the wind, and so there are many points in the game where you feel as though you’re unfairly set back by the plot, essentially voiding much of what you’ve been working towards with what hard-win little victories you could attain. While consistent with the source material, I would’ve liked to have felt like my actions mattered a bit more for the characters I had been carefully guiding. With that in mind though, the story is worth seeking out with its vibrant cast of characters, and a promised second season on the way- perhaps with some much-needed payoff.

And, yes, the first episode came out in 2014, but the rest all came out in 2015 so I’m going to count it as a 2015 game.

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THE I REALLY NEED TO PUT MORE TIME INTO THIS AWARD- Tales From The Borderlands (PC, Mac, Android, PS4, PS3, XBO, X360)

There are always those games that, despite starting off incredibly promisingly, somehow seem to fall by the wayside and you realise you really should get back to several months down the line. Such is the case for Telltale’s second game on this list, Tales From The Borderlands. I often find that I fall away from Telltale Games despite their consistent quality. I think that’s the problem with episodic games- if I were playing the game whole, I could ramp from each episode from the next to enjoy a complete story as intended. When there are months between new episodes of the game, I lose that sense of pace and find it hard to get back into the series.

I enjoy the main Borderlands series a fair bit, having played much of Borderlands 1 and 2, and a bit of The Pre-Sequel. I like the gunplay and loot system, I don’t mind the WoW- style quests, I like the visual design, and I like the world and humour, not as bothered by some by the memetic nature of much of the writing.

Borderlands is funny. Tales From The Borderlands is hilarious.

Taking elements of the humour of the main series, and bolstering them with a dedication to quality comedy writing to drive the player’s interest, Tales From The Borderlands is just about the funniest game I’ve played this year; hell, of all time. Pairing skilful writing with an all-important sense that it doesn’t take itself or the main series seriously (to an even greater extent than the main series, which is saying something), it’s a gloriously entertaining thing to experience. I’ve been spoiled for a few of the sections I haven’t gotten to yet, having only played through the first third of the game, but it’s right at the top of my to-finish list once I’ve polished off the couple of more recently released games on my pile.

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THE APPRECIATE- FROM- AFAR AWARD- Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more sad about not being into a game.

Super Mario is a monolith. A big, important cornerstone of the games industry. It’s a powerhouse of finely tuned platforming; a masterclass of intrinsically rewarding gameplay, an exemplar of smart design as intuitive tutorial, and an encouraging ambassador for successful, quirky ideas. I just don’t ever feel driven to play the games for more than a sitting or two.

I’m also not really into making or experiencing user-generated content. I don’t have the kind of imagination in that area, nor the investment in 2D platformers as a genre to drive ambitions of creation, and when I can hardly summon the obligation to finish crafted experiences from professional developers, randomly queued content from the general public doesn’t really hold my interest either.

I’m sure I’ll get around to playing more of Super Mario Maker. It’s an unlimited source of levels for one (or rather, four) of the best platforming games ever created. And I’ve loved following high profile projects like the Dan Ryckert vs Patrick Klepek shebang and Game Grumps taking on devious creations from their own Ross Donovan. It’s just that the game simply isn’t for me, so it just doesn’t resonate with me like I feel it should.

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THE ONE I FELT WEIRD ABOUT BECAUSE THE FIRST HALF OF THE GAME WAS RELEASED IN 2014 AWARD- Broken Age (PC, Mac, Android, PS4, PS Vita)

I really fell in love with the world that Double Fine created in Broken Age. Their trademark quirk and humour felt appropriately realised in the vibrant environments and unique art style. For the couple of days it took me to blow through the game, I was enraptured, driven forward through the sheer desire to see more of the world, and learn more about the plot and characters. The way that the story weaves the parallel stories of Shay, a young man coddled by a motherly spaceship AI, and Vella, a girl pledged to be sacrificed to a massive creature in a fantasy world where each town revolves entirely around a single skill. You can complete each character’s sections at your own pace, switching between them as you get stuck or tired in their respective areas, and when their stories start to converge at the end of Act 1, it’s a moment that rivals any other highlight from 2014.

Which is why I couldn’t consider Broken Age for my 2015 list. While I loved the game, everything that made it the great game it is was established in Act 1. Had both parts been released as a whole game in 2015, and had Act 2 not reused the environments from Act 1 wholesale, Broken Age would be a real gem among many-a 2015 list.

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THE ADORABLE VARMINT AWARD- Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)

Yoshi’s Woolly World is light, bright, laid back entertainment. It’s one of those games that you sink into like an old beanbag to switch off and chill out. It’s got a delightful aesthetic, building on the art style from Kirby’s Epic Yarn to build levels that’ll just make you smile. It’s without a doubt the happiest game from 2015, and I adore it, but haven’t played much of it.

It’s just that there’s not a whole lot of depth to the affair; it’s my problem with a lot of 2D platformers coming to light again. It’s popcorn: a joy to consume, but it doesn’t hold your attention or sate your appetite for that long. It deserves to be appreciated for the aesthetic and consistent variation between new environments and little injections of level sections where Yoshi becomes a mole, or a motorbike, or massive. The core gameplay just doesn’t manage to grab me for more than a few hours, meaning I don’t really feel all that driven to complete it and see all of the levels and worlds on offer.

It is so gosh darned adorable, though.

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THE MATT LIKES ROBOTS AWARD- SOMA (PC, Mac, Android, PS4)

I love robots. Any story that ponders the meaning of Artificial Intelligence, and what constitutes consciousness, and how those two topics impact on each other, is a story that might as well be written specifically for me.

SOMA’s narrative is absolutely my jam, and asks all the questions that I love to get explored. The morality of Artificial Intelligence based off of human brain patterns, the consequences of porting human consciousness to digital format, the conflict in the sense of self that arises when you can duplicate consciousness. SOMA feels like it could’ve been written by any of the sci-fi greats; the story is fascinating, the characters are compelling and well fleshed out (ironically, given the abundance of robots), and you really feel driven forward through curiosity for the narrative.

Sadly, where SOMA doesn’t work for me is in the actual gameplay. Much like Frictional Games’ own Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you run across enemies that you’ll have to outmanoeuvre and sneak around to progress. If you look at them directly, you vision starts to glitch and it becomes very easy to lose your bearings. I understand that this is a preventative measure to keep you from getting used to the enemies physically, therefore preserving your fear, but all it really serves to do is annoy the player. This attempt to scare the player is further undermined by a kind of “two-strike” system where if the player is caught by a beastie, they get a brief glimpse of it before blacking out and awakening in the same spot gravely injured. You them must arduously make your way, with severely red-blurred vision and impaired movement, to a healing spot before you’re caught again. If I didn’t know where a near healing spot was, I’d often just search for the creature to get gored again so that I could start the section over without the annoying limitations to my sight and movement. This is the precise opposite effect than intended, and it creates the wrong kind of tension.

SOMA is a game that’s hamstrung by Frictional’s desire to keep one foot in the horror genre. I really think that the narrative would shine even stronger if the game wasn’t trying to scare us through unkillable enemies; that worked in Amnesia, but not so much here. An early part of the game had me horrified, but not because I was in grave danger; rather, because of something that I was forced to do in order to progress. Other parts seriously creeped me out, despite my being in relative safety. If SOMA had dedicated itself to that kind of horror- not creating fear of external threats to my character’s person, but unveiling slowly the pitch-black layers of the terrible world it placed me in- then I think it would be something truly, truly special.

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THE GAME I GUILTILY LOVED GOT BETTER AWARD- Destiny: The Taken King (PS4, PS3, XBO, X360)

I love Destiny. And I have pretty much since launch.

I know it was basically a broken, non-recommendable mess for its first year. The story is horribly told, which is made worse by the hints of incredible lore locked away in unlock able Grimoire cards that you need to hunt down on Bungie’s own website. The endgame confused players with a poorly-explained “light” levelling system (essentially the same as World of Warcraft’s armour level endgame, but somehow even more esoteric) marred by frustrating drop rates and an over reliance on running through the same missions again and again. Relatively recently, Kotaku’s Jason Schreler broke the messy story behind Destiny’s development, which explained why the game came out in the state it did.

But I still loved it. I got stuck in soon after the first small expansion, The Dark Below, added a second Raid to run through and made the endgame feel more attractive. House of Wolves even added a smart feature that let you upgrade your vanilla and Dark Below weapons to the maximum attack values of year 1, making any decent weapon viable if you really missed it from an older expansion. For all its many serious faults, I still found Destiny a blast alongside my friends.

The Taken King added lots of content and tweaks to make Destiny actually recommendable. The questing system was overhauled to make it less confusing, and to help guide you through the game’s endgame content leading you through the steps to gear up for the raid. The expansion’s story, while lacklustre, spent more time focusing on characters (especially Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6, in a clever move to harness Mr. Fillion’s sensational natural charisma) which helped make us care a bit more about saving the solar system. The new quests were interesting and varied, and there was more of a focus on secrets hunting that lend the expansion a sense of adventure and exploration.

The Taken King took a game that was my guilty pleasure and turned it into a certifiably good game. It’s still got issues, and I’m very wary of its microtransactions (cosmetic, for now), and the new reliance on live events rather than minor and major paid content releases might go horribly awry for Bungie. But Destiny is in my opinion the most improved game in 2015.

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Image credits- gamepressure.com, gamerevolution.com, heavy.com, indiehaven.com, pixelkin.org, pushsquare.com, theaveragegamer.com, zavvi.com, 3rd-strike.com

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The Top 10 Games of 2015, According To Me

2015 was an unquestionably strong year for video games. We’ve been ridiculously, surprisingly spoiled, to the point that several of the following games would have easily earned a top spot on almost anyone’s list any other year. But even in the midst of such quality, for me these games have risen above the rest. Here are my personal top 10 games of 2015.

10- Rise of the Tomb Raider

Most sequels are content to simply grasp dangling plot threads from the previous game and run the same gauntlet again in new locations with a handful of new abilities, but not Rise of the Tomb Raider. Rise is the rare game that’s been created with all of the issues of its predecessor clearly in mind. Lara is now a somewhat seasoned survivalist, and is far more believable in both her willingness and ability to murder threats to her life. The eponymous tombs have returned, this time fully optional and providing the series’ pedigree environment puzzles that were conspicuously light in the last game. And the semi-open environments of the first game have evolved into a more expansive affair, offering more interesting optional diversions than before. The core game itself is just as well written, and action is just as solid, and the characters and environments are just as beautifully realised aesthetically now as in its predecessor, but Rise of the Tomb Raider has made big improvements where it counts, and deserves a spot among the best games of the year.

10- Rise of the Tomb Raider

9- Rocket League

It turns out that to reinvigorate interest in sports and racing games in an industry tired with both, all you need is a little rocket fuel. Rocket League is a physics-driven football game with teams of rocket-enhanced cars. It’s as beautifully simple as that. The first time you intercept the ball with a rocket- assisted bash and watch it sail between those goalposts, you’ll be hard-pressed to restrain your elation. Instantly fun, easy to comprehend and packed with nuance as you learn how to play more effectively, Rocket League is pure, effortless fun. What’s not to love when you can drive your enemies up the wall this literally?

9- Rocket League

8- Splatoon

The first new Nintendo IP in what feels like forever, Splatoon is a fresh and exciting take on competitive online play. In reply to the landscape of grim and gritty military shooters, Nintendo has delivered a game where you literally brighten up the world to win in a paintball battle to cover the map in your team’s colours. Ablaze with bright and cheerful colour, Splatoon’s presentation doubles up as a clever visual indicator of how well you team is doing, and where you’re needed most. See a big patch of enemy ink in a quiet part of the map? Hose the place with your ink to score lots of points for you and your team! The flow of the match is even tied to your coverage of the map, since you can only effectively move about as kid and squid in areas covered in your team’s ink, while enemy ink slows and damaged you. Awash with a grand variety of weapons from fast- firing paintball guns to far reaching paint rifles and even big paint rollers to spread your team’s ink and dispatch enemies, Splatoon allows for a variety of playstyles. It’s also one of the more viable multiplayer-focused titles released this year due to continuing support in the form of a steady stream of new maps and modes to keep players interested, making Splatoon a shining example of games-as-service.

8- Splatoon

7- Undertale

Undertale is the rare example of a completely unknown entity rocketing to complete success, riding a wave of praise from fans bordering on fanatical. I’m still baffled that a small release blending old school, Earthbound-style JRPG with bursts of combat using bullet hell mechanics can attain such widespread acclaim. Nevertheless, Undertale is all heart. Undertale’s selling point is that you don’t have to kill a single being on your journey through the world of monsters. Each new opponent is a little puzzle exercise, and it’s here that the game really shines (if you don’t fall in love with the game when you’ve experienced Lesser Dog, you don’t have a heart). Every new and bizarre character is a singular delight to experience, and if you haven’t played Undertale then I don’t want to spoil a single detail. Wonderfully expressive with its bright, retro art style and punctuated with perhaps the best soundtrack of the year, Undertale is a pack of wonderful surprises. 

7- Undertale

6- Life Is Strange

Dontnod Entertainment’s episodic game, Life Is Strange, is the first of two Telltale Games- style adventure games on this list. The gameplay itself is almost identical to the Telltale Games’ tried- and- tested formula, with the important distinction that the protagonist, Max, can rewind time. This is both paired with dialogue challenges where you must rewind some conversations with future knowledge to bring about what you think is the most favourable option. Where Life Is Strange excels, though, is in its exploration of player agency and choice. At many points in the game, I was presented with a choice between two different actions. I could see the immediate repercussions of each decision, but I could only guess at the farther-reaching consequences. This left me indecisive for several minutes, on several occasions, terrified that I might make a choice I might regret. Of course, none of this would be effective without a compelling cast of characters, and Life Is Strange knocks it out of the park with a delightful band of personalities (Chloe might be my favourite character this year). Wrap this up with an ending that feels both earned and appropriate based on the game’s emphasis on player agency, and we have ourselves a belter of a game.

6- Life Is Strange

5- Until Dawn

Quantic Dream and Telltale Games redefined adventure games for the modern era of gaming with a purer focus on great storytelling, and Supermassive Games has achieved perhaps the biggest sleeper hit of the year with their run at that formula. Until Dawn sets itself up in the most cliche of horror trappings- teenagers partying in a cabin in the woods on the anniversary of a horrible disaster. It’s jour job to guide your characters through the story as events jackknife between lots of horror archetypes, keeping the player on their toes and constantly guessing what’s going on until the whole story wraps together in a very satisfying way. It’s mighty good fun to replay the game several times, feeling out ways to direct the events to shape the characters’ lives, and it can be surprising how differently any two different playthroughs can play out (each of the game’s characters may die or survive until the end). The game excels in driving the player through curiosity and tension to keep as many characters as possible alive… until dawn. (I’m so sorry)

5- Until Dawn

4- Fallout 4

For better or for worse, Fallout 4 is yet another Bethesda Open World Game, with all of the joys and trappings that come with the pedigree. It seems to be the price of worlds with such depth and scope; Fallout 4 is plagued by a multitude of bugs both harmless and serious, and the choice to feature a fully voiced lead character has forced a more streamlined dialogue system that actually serves to limit and cheapen the NPC interaction that the series is so loved for. With such glaring and serious issues as these, how is the game so high up on my list? Because no one else makes worlds like Bethesda. Yes, the game is hampered by technical issues and limitations, but there’s still something so magical about Bethesda’s nothing-nailed-down worlds, and Fallout 4’s Commonwealth is packed with memorable locations, characters, stories and that special Fallout brand of quirky humour. Fallout 4 is a flawed diamond.

4- Fallout 4

3- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

If I judged this list based purely on the merits of gameplay, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain would probably sit on the top spot. It’s a testament to its merits that even with its many problems, MGS5 might have taken that number one spot any other year. Hampered by a story that feels rushed and unfinished and an over reliance on repetitive mission types, the game might well be a casualty of its own ambition. What we do have, though, is core gameplay that’s inimitably outstanding on a molecular level. The vast environments Venom Snake sneaks or storms his way through set the stage for the player to approach objectives with unparalleled freedom. The game offers a simply vast array of lethal and non-lethal ways of carrying out your missions, and each and every potential avenue feels fully developed and fleshed out to perfection. You can get a dog with an eye patch, shoot a rocket fist for a long range punch, and fulton-extract a bear. Any game that lets me knock out a bear before attaching a parachute to it and watching it sail towards the heavens wins both its name as a Metal Gear game, and my heart.

3- MGSV

2- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game defined in the strength of its world. Drawing from and building upon the lore from Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels, the game is CD Projekt Red’s first attempt to bring The Witcher series to an open world, and by God do they surpass the challenge. A keen eye for artistic detail brings the world to life, depicting harsh mountains, swamps and forests punctuated with settlements from tiny villages to grand cities. Populating these environments are an extensive cast of distinct and unforgettable characters, gloriously fleshed out in missions and side missions which provide a level of depth and storytelling ability that’s almost unrivalled. The gameplay itself is solid enough, boasting a satisfying combat system that juggles swordplay and magic to great affect, and matures as the game progresses and you unlock more abilities. This is bolstered with a layer of strategy which requires you to drastically change your approach based on the kind of foe (human or monster) that you face. Make no mistake, though; this is a game of stories, and will leave you with dozens of memories. The cherry on top is the excellent post-release support that CD Projekt Red has given the game, with extensive patches and a slew of free DLC which makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt perhaps the best advocate for games-as-service alongside Splatoon.

2- Witcher 3

1- Bloodborne

Bloodborne provides, in my opinion, the best gameplay experience of the year. Mixing up the challenging but fair combat of the Souls games, Bloodborne speeds up the action without sacrificing the careful planning and forethought that From Software’s offerings so often require, resulting in more explosive skirmishes rife with risk and reward. Bloodborne features incredible art design, assaulting the senses with imagery that’s built from both classic Gothic and Lovecraft-esque horror to create its own unique aesthetic in a way only From Software could pull off. This world doesn’t just live, it roils and churns around you as you press forward on your hunt through the city of Yharnam, and the sheer quality of design and variety of the monsters you’ll face is near unprecedented. As the story unfolds, the careful and observant player is rewarded with the fascinating tale of Yharnam as told through subtle details and item descriptions found in the world. All these details add up until you have a game that manages that rare feat of truly immersing you into its fantasy through seamless integration of gameplay, story, and world design. There’s a fair argument for each of the top three games on this list to have the number one spot, but in my eyes Bloodborne wins the top spot.

1- Bloodborne

Image credits- forbes.com, gamersbook.com, gamespot.com, ign.com, lightninggamingnews.com, newgamenetwork.com, nintendo.co.uk, throwingdigitalsheep.com, usgamer.net, vg247.com, venturebeat.com

Dr. Langeskov: The Middle Finger to AAA

A few days ago, a curious little game appeared on Steam. A “complimentary” game (that is, it’s free, not free-to-play but completely free) from new studio Crows Crows Crows, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (hereby referred to as Dr. Langeskov, because DLTTaTTCE:AWH, while amusing, is a pain in the arm to type out) has made quite the viral impact on the gaming community.

It’s a really interesting little experience. Fans of The Stanley Parable may recognise the name William Pugh as on of the main designers alongside Davey Wreden on the standalone release, and that makes sense given Dr. Langeskov’s similar style of narrative and game design. If you haven’t played the game yet, then you really should invest the 20 minutes it takes to play through the thing. If you need a little bit more context to pique your interest, then I’ll give you as broad a summary as I can: you’re following instructions from the disembodied voice of Simon Amstell to run several environmental effects, backstage in an action heist video game.

The game is spearheaded by Amstell’s wonderfully awkward character (think Wheatley from Portal 2) as he struggles to keep the game running with the fictional game company’s backstage crew on strike, hence the need for the player to work the effects for an unseen player’s benefit. The game feels like a bit of a poke at game development companies whose employees are mistreated or overworked, especially in light of recent revelations about Konami, as well as the more obvious Stanley Parable- esque commentary on player-game interactions.

Although limited in scope, Dr. Langeskov is a very tightly crafted piece of work. Although made using the Source engine, the environments shine through the placement of lots of visual gags including post-it notes and letters of resignation from disgruntled employees of the fictional development team of the game. The real charm comes from the excellent writing evident in Amstell’s narration, along with his natural talent with comic timing and pacing. While I didn’t laugh out loud, I was certainly smiling the whole way through the game.

I’ve got to say, this is a hell of a way to introduce yourself to the world as a new studio. Crows Crows Crows (these guys are really into names that are a pain to type, huh) have produced a delightful gem to showcase their considerable talents, and it’s really payed off; I’m sure a ton of people will really pay attention to whatever they turn out next. And I really hope that’s the case. Because in a world where the AAA companies seem afraid to experiment and push boundaries in favour of safe money, it’s great to see that this small team is very willing to to produce a very polished little experiment, so that next time, players know that their offerings are worth the money.

Quick Update

Hello my lovelies! I’m just posting a quick update about this blog. I’ve been working a full time job for just over a week now, and my contract lasts until the 27th of December. Sadly, the hours of the job aren’t very conducive to keeping a blog as regularly updated as I’d like, since I’m working 12 noon till 8PM and it takes about 40 minutes to an hour to get to and from work, which cuts down my playing, researching and writing time quite considerably.

I’m still going to keep the site updated as often as I can, aiming for at least a couple of posts each week, so fear not- activity will slow but not cease.

I hope y’all had a deliciously spoopy Halloween.

Peace out, friends.

Day One Updates (Halo 5, Don’t You Want Me?)


As I write this introductory sentence, it’s 01:01AM Wednesday morning, the 28th of October 2015. I’ve formed the habit of glancing at my TV for the last couple of hours, because Halo 5 has a 9GB day one update. See, I work from 12 noon to 8PM, it takes about an hour to get home, another couple of hours to cook and eat tea as well as have some much-needed interaction with my housemates. I knew it’d take a while for the game to install; I set off the process several hours ago, but for some reason by Xbox One waited for me to try to launch the game before telling me that a 9GB update is required to play the game.

I could have gone offline and continued update-less, but since games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 have crucial single player content locked in their day 1 updates, I feel more inclined to launch with the most up-to-date version available to me.

I understand the usefulness of day one updates. I know there’s a substantial window of time between sending a game off for certification, manufacture, et cetera and the actual release date of the game, within which window the developers are able to squirrel away at fixing bugs and the like. That’s a fine and useful way to use day one updates. It’s also understandable to gate multiplayer modes in day one patches to stop people who manage to get their hands on the game earlier than the general public from zooming ahead of everyone else.

Another argument is that day one updates allow for developers to ignore disc storage restrictions, but that can be fixed by splitting content between several discs if needs be. If you’re releasing a AAA game, it’s not that much of a monetary stretch to print extra discs. You can even funnel the money from the deals with Mountain Dew that everyone mocks you for.

But 9GB? For some people with fast internet connections due to geographical or economical reasons, that’s a paltry amount of data. For everyone else, though, it’s a royal pain in the unmentionables. I’ll admit that my work hours limit the amount of evening playtime available to me, but a system that gives the game a three hour slot to install itself on the day of purchase, and yet fails to meet that timeframe, is not a good system.

We’re increasingly moving away from a place where the majority of a gaming experience can be enjoyed without an internet connection, or where gamers have to passively jump through hoops for potentially hours just to enjoy their new purchases. It’s a complicated issue with lots of niggling caveats on both sides, but what I think the core of the matter lies in the question: “Does the player benefit in any meaningful way despite having their access to said product arbitrarily restricted by their internet connection, when the problem can be worked around in other ways?”

It’s now 01:23 and I don’t think there’s been another percent of progress yet. I know my answer.

Image credits: forbes.com